Chapter 9: Preview and Demonstration Pt. 3

“Double-check the radiator settings,” she interrupted suddenly. “Or you’ll blow out the gas line. And then you’ll need to — “

” — engage the thrusters, yeah, yeah, I know,” Finn snapped. It was just like being back in school, he thought sourly as he stood up from his seat. He turned to hit to the proper dial on the wall, though before he could hit the button —

Slam. White-hot pain shot through his head and he staggered sideways, emitting a gruff “ergh!” as his hand jumped to the back of his neck. He sank against the wall, his vision swimming.

Blinking dully, he saw the pilot standing over the dashboard, holding a long silver pipe in hand — a decent weapon choice, judging by the throbbing in his head. She threw him a sideways glare and started to take over the dials on the dashboard.

“Hey!” he yelled in surprise, as if she’d said something foul and offensive and not just tried to knock him out. “What the hell? I thought you said you weren’t getting paid enough for this.”

“If I take the ship back from a thief, I’ll get reimbursed plenty, don’t you think?” Smirking, she leaned over the field of controls, taking back the main steering. With difficulty, Finn dragged himself up to his feet and then took advantage of the distraction: clumsily, with a groan of alarm, he lunged at her.

He’d never really learned how to fight cleanly.

But she wasn’t giving up the helm without a fight. “Give me back — my — ship!” she growled, as they wrestled for control of the dashboard. She kept one hand on the navigation as she threw her fist sideways against his chest. Finn seized her thrashing wrist and pinned it behind her back. With his other hand, he fished his gun from its holster, but it was knocked away by her elbow to his chin.

Meanwhile, the ship was zig-zagging through the air, tilting the floor dangerously beneath their feet.

———-

What the hell was he doing? Alyx had been watching the flight of the ship Finn was supposed to steal since the moment it flew out of the hangar. It had started out alright, making a clean swoop across the massive field, but then things had gotten funny. He was supposed to just fly right out of here and take the thing back to the Beacon, but when it hit the end of the field, it had flipped around and started pulling elaborate stunts.

The way the surrounding ships flew, it was clear this wasn’t the intended show so Alyx was certain either the pilot they’d chosen was particularly bad or it was indeed her pilot at the helm. And he was ignoring the plan.

But just when she was about to write him off as the cocky show-off he was and swearing to herself that she’d give him a piece of her mind later, things took a turn for the worse. The stunts got a little…jagged. Something started to feel legitimately wrong. A chorus of confusion and wonder started to rise from the crowd around her. And then, all at once, it changed to panic as the transport changed direction midair and was suddenly headed straight at them.

Alyx unconsciously seized Daelen’s arm as though she was going to escort him to safety, but she found she couldn’t take her eyes off the ship as it barrelled towards the grandstand, seemingly gaining speed. Fortunately, her physician had a better reaction time. Just before the hull sliced its way through a support beam as though it were made of butter, Alyx felt a harsh tug on her arm and her whole body was yanked out of the way as the entire grandstand was swept up by a cloud of debris and an enormous crash.

———–

Before Finn opened his eyes, he could hear the horrified gasps of the crowd, the pounding of feet, flooding his ears. Every part of him was aching dully. He forced his eyes open to mere slits and glimpsed white clouds and a slice of bright blue sky, blurry and wavering above his head.

A long, low groan rolled from his throat. From somewhere nearby he heard the pilot staggering to her feet. “Hey. You alive?”

“I think so,” Finn mumbled. Then he muttered earnestly, “Hey, nice job pulling the emergency mechs,” and she answered, “No, it was all you. We’d be goners if you hadn’t adjusted the lift at the last second. That was pretty amazing.”

Voice barely above a groan, he grunted, “That’s true. I am amazing.”

Wincing with pain, he sat up, feeling blood and debris across his face. The ship was crumbled in pieces all around him, emitting black smoke. Crowds of people were circled around the ship, staring in awe.

Coughing, and feeling that he better get out of here before the authorities realized what had happened, he started to stand up to his feet.

But then he saw her.

In the front line of the crowd stood someone he recognized at once. Her hair was shorter, her stance was weaker and she was wearing a dull grey dress that barely fit her, but she had the same wide puppy-dog brown eyes, currently gazing straight at him and looking thunderstruck. Finn would have recognized her anywhere.

” — Corra?”

He meant to call for her, but he barely choked out her name, hoarse as he was. He tried again, squinting his eyes at her, as if seeing a mirage — but somehow, he knew it wasn’t.

“Corra!” he yelped.

Her expression suddenly folded into — sadness? Apology? And then she turned on her heel and fled, melting back into the crowd. Disappearing.

Finn started to climb out of the debris to follow after her, but then he felt a hand seize his shoulder.

“Finn! Finn, are you alright?” It was Alyx. She’d pushed her way through the crowd and took him by the arm. “You’re okay? Here, don’t try to stand — “

“No, no, I’m fine — Alyx, look — Corra’s here! I just saw her, we have to go after — ”

“Did you hit your head then?” Alyx asked worriedly, looking him over. “It’s gonna be okay, Daelen’s on his way.“

“No, I’m fine! Alyx, Corra was just here! Go after her!”

Alyx looked stricken with confusion. She glanced over her shoulder and then back at him. “Finn, what are you– I’m not going to–”

Why was she not understanding this? “Alyx!” He seized both her arms and looked her straight in the eye, standing as still as he could. “If you don’t go after her now, we’ll lose her. This could be our only chance. You need to go find her.”

Her eyes searched his face, but she didn’t move. She wasn’t even going to try? How could she not realize what she was doing? How important this was? Did she not even care?

But then her stare found something else. The woman, the pilot he’d flown with, was talking to someone on the other side of the crash. She was pointing over at Finn and stern expressions came over her audience. And then, Alyx was grasping his wrists. “No, Finn, I need to get you out of here,” she said and started to pull.

Finn didn’t have the strength to fight her. As she started to lead them out of the area, away from the crash and the crowds, he tried desperately to find that face again, to pick her out amongst the staring eyes, but there was nothing. She was gone. And as Alyx dragged him down the steps towards the docks where the Beacon’s shuttle was waiting, he wondered if he would ever see her again.

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